Levin: 'Don't ask' hearings will 'boost' passage of defense authorization bill

Hearings into the Pentagon's report on the implications of repealing "Don't ask, don't tell" will help passage of the 2011 defense authorization bill, according to the leading Senate Democrat on military affairs.

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Sen. Carl Levin (D-Mich.), the chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, welcomed Defense Secretary Robert Gates's decision to speed up the public release of the yearlong Pentagon study to allow for congressional hearings to take place.

Levin's committee included in the defense authorization bill it wrote earlier this year a provision to repeal the Clinton-era law, which bans openly gay people from serving in the military.

"I believe our hearings on the report will be a boost to the goal of passing a National Defense Authorization Act, including provisions related to repeal of 'don’t ask, don’t tell,' " Levin said in a statement on Monday. "Passage of the Defense Authorization Act is essential to our troops and their families and to our national defense.”

Gates has asked his staff to ready the study for public release on Nov. 30. The report was initially due on Dec. 1.

The massive defense policy bill has been caught up in the tug-of-war between supporters and opponents of repealing the ban. Supporters of repeal now hope the Pentagon's study would be the catalyst for achieving the 60 votes necessary to move to debate oN the defense bill in the Senate.

The House already passed its version of the bill that contains the repeal provision.